Silence is Deadly

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Because of you I find it difficult to speak, difficult to breathe, difficult to be.

If only I had been able to say this to you when I needed to most.

I had heard about young children who were not able to protect themselves. What I had never heard about was what the elder siblings, the ones who are supposed to have a voice, supposed to be brave for the sake of saving the younger, do when they cannot protect themselves. What eldest siblings are to do when they no longer have an alternate direction to turn, I had no solution.

To change everything was my ultimate desire.

It had started out as easily and as innocently as name calling. The first time he'd resorted to calling me names was shortly after she'd left us for the first time.

Stupid.

Useless.

Ungrateful.

Just like her.

When she'd left us for the second time his name calling had escalated to physical restraint. Any time I tried to walk away while he verbally assaulted me, he stopped me.

Grabbed my arm.

Pulled me back.

Pinned me against the wall.

Lifted my feet from the floor by the collar of my shirt.

After she'd left us for the final time, I watched him reach his worst. I had never seen him like this in all my seventeen years and it scared me.

Any time I gasped.

Any time I whimpered.

Any time I cried.

He silenced me.

He was the kind of man who could leave me completely speechless in the most negative way; to make me feel humiliated and guilty, even though I'd done nothing wrong. He was the kind of man that I will love, forever and always.

I once considered running away, to start all over again, to be able to come and go as I please. It was not a lack of courage that led me to decide against it. It was but one quote by an esteemed writer that changed my mind:

To run from one's demons leaves but for the demon left to be conquered.

It was because of these words that I did not leave. It was not fear, anger, nor desire that drove me to stay and it never could be.

If I ever wanted to really live my life, I was going to have to face my demons. There were many who could see my daily plague of devastation: it was completely visible on their faces. They saw the despair in our eyes when we knew there was no longer anything to do to keep us from returning home. Ultimately they were the ones who were afraid.

My younger brother Robbie was the biggest reason for my wanting to change it, change it all. Robbie frequently stood before him and took all of his evil, spiteful "punishments." Sometimes he hadn't even done anything "wrong." I can remember on so many occasions being disgusted by the verbal violations that were committed against him.

And every time he was violated in these most humiliating of ways, Robbie stood tall, with no look of disgust on his face nor a look of fear. Robbie was indifferent and this is what convinced me I needed to do or say something. The only question on my mind was what could I possibly do or say to fix something like this?

I am still searching for the answer.

It seems like just yesterday that my world fell from the sky.

What I wouldn't give for him to feel like we've felt, for him to see what we saw, or for him to be as we were. I know exactly how it would all go: he would crumble to the floor, unable to say a single word, trying to catch his breath. The difference between he and I is that I could manage to catch my breath. I knew it then, and I know it now: he would not be able to.

For a long time, as far as I'd been concerned, he could rot.

It was a lovely Saturday afternoon; the sun was shining and the snow was melting. I would have said the world was a wonderful, beautiful place, if I wasn't forced to go home at the end of the day.

It had all happened in a space of time that simultaneously felt like no time at all, and like an eternity. Robbie and Daddy were in the kitchen, and just as I walked in, I watched as Daddy put Robbie's hand on the stove burner.

Robbie screamed.

My father had resorted to this kind of punishment many times before, but physical violence was only ever committed against me. He'd never touched Robbie before.

I couldn't think of anything else to do but scream, run over to Robbie, and rip his hand off the burner. It was then that I did something completely out of character: I pushed aside all fear and pushed Daddy aside along with it.

I will never be able to forget the look that crossed his face that day.

"You bitch," Daddy yelled as he made his way back toward me, grabbing my hand and pressing it to the burner of the stove. Holding it there.

"Don't you ever think to do anything like that again," Daddy demanded. "Do you understand me?"

It was a searing pain unlike any other, but what could I do? Past experiences had proved that agreeing with Daddy was the best solution to any problem. Sure enough, when I tried to wriggle my hand free of his, to shield it from the searing pain of the burner that was now permeating a vulgar smell, he held it stronger. When I opened my mouth to say something, scream something, make any audible sound that may help me, as it had happened so many times before, nothing came out. I stood, speechless. Silent.

"Answer me," he yelled, turning the heat on the stove up ever higher, never easing up on my hand.

I looked up into his big, black, hateful eyes and nodded. I could hear Robbie quietly whimpering somewhere behind me. I had learned not to cry, it only makes Daddy angrier.

It was then that my father removed his hand from mine and smacked it across my face.

Sometimes it takes just one thing to put a person over the edge. This was my one thing. I was done with all of his excuses, done with all his so called "disciplinary actions," done with being used.

"I hate you." It came out calmly, confidently. Daddy was almost out of the kitchen, standing under the pass-through to the living room, when he stopped dead in his tracks.

I could hear Robbie gasp behind me.

As Daddy turned in the doorway I knew I'd reached the ultimate limit. That lovely Saturday afternoon would be my last day in this life. My father was never one for keeping his temper under control.

I haven't a single regret but one. I wish I'd said something. If only I'd told someone, things might not have ended the way they did.

Even though I'm gone I know I've left an impression on more than one life. Daddy is in prison, grieving the loss of Mum in a one-man cell. With no company for him to talk to, he's had a lot of time to think. I heard him say once or twice that he was sorry.

I'm still not sure who he was sorry to -- Mum, or me.

Robbie was taken to live with Grandma and Grandpa. He prays to God every day, thanking Him for giving him an older sister like me. Along with his thanks he claims he misses me. The truth is, I miss him too.

I've gone back and told Daddy that I love him. Because, even after everything that he's done, I truly do. The demons that have haunted him were not who my father was, they were what took him away.

Daddy thought he was crazy, hearing voices, but when I said it again he started to cry. "I love you too, baby girl," he said through tears.

I suppose it's true what they say. Silence is deadly.


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